Monday, July 26, 2010
The place was disgusting. A projects styled, reject of a building done up in plycrete. The glass was stained, same with the building. Runny blotches of goo and lubricant and other unnamed chemicals that collided together to create a strong, wafting perfume that overpowered her delicate sense of smell. It was in the battered quarter of the city that was Argul, and the Baajin would have left the vehicle, only circumstances changed. Suddenly the driver was crying, hands held in the air in that "I'm not being threatening" kind-of way as the vehicle went dead. Defensive mechanisms came into place as scanners came online. They didn't broadcast, only pulling in the information of the pings assailing her. It was all outward information, blasting against her and she took it in like a sponge. Failsafe systems began to become active. She was expendable -- her data, however, was not. A dormant system within came online. It echoed a moment, fleeting, a call into a level of quantum timespace strata beyond mere dimensional twisting. A superstring vibrated and reality echoed a moment, seeming to shiver like water after a rock had been tossed into it. The Baajin simply pushed her duffel in with a quick warning transmission about the circumstances before the eddie collapsed in on itself. The data would already be in the hands of her handlers by now. The driver, though, he was still bubbling tears. "I didn't mean it," and "I surrender" and "It's all her fault! She did it!" Stent had underestimated the citywide tracking system, and although she had uploaded monitoring software of her own, apparently it had been found and destroyed or outright firewalled into place with no means of communicating to her that her own impending doom was at hand. She was calculating even now as the driver slid the door open and flopped out, hands above his head, eyes streaming and bubbling about how he had never meant to abet and abide a known criminal. He was a good man, so he said. Law following. Pudgy as he was, the Baajin could not fault him his cowardly behavior. But she had two options as well -- surrender or die. Her armor was interfacing and informing her that the information being blasted at her were messages: surrender or be destroyed. At least, it was something along those lines. She moved, slowly, the door swinging open in that graceful, semi-pneumatic and soundless way. She stepped out, slitted eyes blinking slowly as a prehensile tail swung and a forked tongue flickered about. Tastes like death, she thought. "Go home," she said. "I've got nothing for you." And then...she died. The systems within her began to turn off failsafes. Power surges started, and with all the failsafes off and the overload started, the time between the shut off and the erupting explosion were near simultaneous. From the sky is was a column of light as the last vestiges of the alien forcefield kept the majority of the blast and redirected it. Then everything was consumed. All that was left was an expansive blast of superheated air that immolated the nearby, groveling driver. He fell, slumping as his body turned into a consumed husk. The only thing left where Stent had been standing was a massive, empty epicenter of a blast drilling several hundred meters into the ground and quickly filling with water. --- The group had gathered in a small shack along a provincial road in ill repair. A backroad off the beaten path that had grass overgrowing at its edges, the pavement worn down to look like a glued together mesh of broken up rocks. The shack was up a path. An old log cabin, again in ill repair. The windows were tattered fragments with glistening sharp edges protruding upward and outward from the frame. The door, too, was laid to waste, sitting ajar with the upper portion smashed off. Around an old, dilapidated table with one leg shorter than the rest they had assembled, five in all. On the table was a holographic, scrolling map, covered in various spiraling concentric lines with numbers representing varying heights. More lines down in grids ran along, also annotated by ascending numbers preceding by two letters. Cities were done in red with the name above it. Green suffused some areas -- forests -- while lingering blue lines slashed waveringly through. The area highlighted was called "Argul." They saw the continent wide-city with all its streets, boulevards and alleys. A complete representation of buildings, their names, heights and possible security was detailed away on the semi-organic map in pop-up scrolling boxes when a building was highlighted. The view kept shifting as the four brainstormed routes into the city as well as handpicking targets of interest. Some wouldn't even be noticed. Others, though, those targets would inspire a lot of attention. Both from media and possibly even a military response. Stent was motioning to the Naruda Argul tower. The monstrosity that towered into the stratosphere. She volunteered herself for it, knowing it could quite well be suicide. The others weren't quick to agree, but this one Baajin was well trained, almost better than her three sisters. Their target list assembled, they began drawing out extraction routes as needed. Falsified documents and information that would stand up to the most serious scrutiny were passed about. By dawn they would be in the massive city-state that was Argul. From there on, all they would have left would be their wits. --- She watched from a rooftop through the enhanced vision of her inserts the explosion as her sister died. A great funeral pyre. She noticed dozens of others in surrounding buildings who had yet to be evacuated from the area due to standing orders of the state legislature were watching, too. Some even had cameras, probably news crew. She could already see the spiel coming down the pipes from that one -- Confederacy blunders big. There would definitely be questions about what had been going on, why the military had been called in, and if it was related to the rumored murders. Heads would role, inquiries would be made, and tax-payer money would be wasted to assuage someone's ego or fears or even both. But for her, it was horrible. She had lost a sister. But there was no mourning the loss of life -- tragic though it was, this Baajin would graciously accept the mantle of precious life she still had. Accepting of her sisters death, she moved on. Kajil was quiet, forked tongue flicking in the dusk and tasting the disaster. She knew her sister well -- there would have been no foul ups. The handlers would have what they needed. Beyond that, well, Stent was expendable, like they all were. Returning to the interior of the apartment, Kajil began to apply the cosmetics and dermal masking tech that would make her appear human. Gone would be the multitudinous scales that could flash in various shades of orange, yellow, red and black. She affixed a nose to her face to cover up her lack of one. Contacts for her eyes. An adhesive tongue to hide the fact hers wasn't human. Her sinuous, prehensile tail would be glued to her back with a special adhesive as well. Ears, follicle implants. Kajil looked like a tall, leggy brunette by the end of it with sharp, blue eyes. The attire the people of this planet wore made that all the easier to disguise and hide herself away. The monitoring programs that she had inside the city data nodes informed her of police coming up the floor, clearing people out. Final checks in place, the Baajin packed a few sparse clothing items and some make up, mostly for appearances, as the door burst open. "Police" came the shout. She appeared in the hallway looking up toward the entrance. A sergeant and two constables in their blue livery stood firm. "Ma'am, this building is to be evacuated immediately." Kajil read his badge. Sergeant Watkins. "Yes. Well, just give me a moment to gather a few things." A moment later she appear with a small bag as if for an overnight stay someplace. One of the constables offered to carry it for her and she obliged. No point in making a scene that she was a big girl, especially since anyone of the rich stature would expect the police to carry their things for them like stewards. Down the opulent hall to a lobby packed with other like persons all dressed in the latest fashions circa a year the Baajin had never heard of. The constable apologized as he handed her back her suitcase before following his sergeant off to collect another few persons from another deluxe suite. Everyone in the lobby was complaining as they were shuffled into elevators and brought down. Kajil found herself crammed into close proximity to an elderly couple. The man smelt of booze and "fine" tobacco. The woman of anxiety and fear. Together they nearly overpowered her sense of smell. The click, the ding, the rumble and the doors slid open. Police were down there with a number of security checkpoints set up. Mobile scanning equipment. Everyone passed through. Kajil did as well. She handed off her papers and ID card airily. It read "Ms. Dawn DuMont." The card went through the scanners. Unobtrusive forensics took a swab to her throat. The DNA showed up human belonging to the individual in question. Credit portfolio and spending habits were also brought up. She was a well-off upper-class woman. Even walking through the corridor of invasive scanners revealed a human woman. Her luggage followed along beside, going through a series of invasive scans designed to reveal the contents, all of which showed them to be woman's clothing and necessities, along with various little dainties, some of which made some of the younger constables bawdy with insidious looks. She reached the end of the line where the constable who had taken her ID handed it back to her and told her to have a very fine evening and that she would be put up in the Galacia Hotel over in the Pemberton Quarter. That was roughly two hundred kilometers away. A multitude of cabs was outside waiting, and even for their number, multiples of the opulently rich were filed into the vehicles without regard for whether they wanted to be in proximity to one another or not. Kajil found herself sitting beside what in human terms would have been a handsome man, if not for his air of arrogant superiority. Opposite were a couple young and tittering woman, probably trust-fund children. "What was that explosion? Did you see it?" "Went straight up into the sky! I think I saw soldiers down there." "You think maybe terrorists?" "Terrorists?" the man snorted, moving his attention from the window of the now moving cab to the two girls. "In this day and age? Not likely." "Then what of the murders, huh?" "Political posturing." "Posturing. You think someone is trying to oust another?" "Yes," the man said. "Those murders were intentional. Someone, somewhere, is scheming this even now. In the end, some department head is going to find him or herself out of a job and someone will take their place. Same thing in the political circle. Just wait, there'll be resignations soon. Always happens." Kajil remained silent. It wouldn't be long until she was at her new residence, and she had much to do. --- The space within the Byorentu System did not stay empty for long. The vast reaches around the rock that had became the headquarters of the Joint Alliance was quickly filled up. At first it was just ships -- warships, cargo ships, and construction vessels of every shape, type and nationality. Every species was represented in the growing armada that ringed the system, and with the construction of the Monolith coming along, the next stage was put into effect. A shipyard for the construction of new warships along with science facilities were built in a sprawling manner covering whole sectors and arcs of the system. A massive, hazardous minefield of industrial endeavor. About the systems sole gas giant, Jyural, a series of science and mining facilities were build, draining off the rare and precious gases and their isotopes to be put to military use. The main shipyards was a long, third-ecliptic ring about the entire system, set up so as to avoid collision from other celestial bodies. About the sun itself, the advanced technologies of the Dalaquen Sovereignty Pact were put to use building a giant ring that would slowly rotate about, drawing off excess energy to create a system wide shield. Using wormholes, they could instantly power every facility within the system, straight down to The Monolith and the Gateway itself. There were other stars on the list to harvest as well. Fleet Commander Amarouk Visarett was touring one such facility that was nearing completion. Just another out of thousands, tens of thousands really, and those that were completed were already building warships. The labyrinthine corridors had wall panels off with wiring and cables and crystal memory strands interspersed within. Technicians were going over these doing finals checks before bolting the panels into place. The whirr of bolt guns attaching said panels to the wall made for a high pitched and prevalent echo. A visual inspection really wasn't necessary. It was all pomp and protocol, really, meant only to satisfy someone higher than him that things were progressing well. He watched as people snapped-to as he walked past. He saluted in turn, a massive furred fist drawn across his chest in return. A series of aides followed him like a paper trail. Other high ranking officers who were more audacious in how they acted toward the non-commissioned troops of the Joint Alliance. But his mind wasn't on the task. Information was being sent to him via the Intra-System Solar Datanet. It was a field report from the INTDIV NAVMAR agent, Daek'tar. There was also a summary by the intelligence division about the data. So much it would take days for the quantum algorithmic computers to sift through it all and find what was needed. Appended was a memo requesting more personal with data management and information analysis skills. Amarouk authorized the request, sending it on to his own office and requesting one of his Galandrian aides go over the information and find the suitable persons necessary, preferably of DSP origin. He wondered what Valorian was up to. There was always something, some new scheme or plan. If the information they had was all they needed, then the Joint Alliance would know what Valorian was up to. They didn't interfere with him -- that wasn't the point of the operations. Merely to keep watch. Valorian was one of a few people outside the Aka'eehnLaa to be classified as a threat. And while most threats need not be neutralized if they didn't move in any way of making good on their threatening nature, Valorian was of a kind that he could invariably change his mind about certain aspects of an unspoken treaty. It wasn't even that he was that large a threat, either; just another interesting individual who could make things more interesting if he so chose. It did, however, make Amarouk somewhat nervous, if the Vadasian could even properly comprehend the human emotion. What was more, there was a secondary memo attached -- Daek'tar was dead. She had been found out and had sent off the data in question before enemy agents had surrounded her. She had committed suicide rather than being captured. Amarouk made a religious motion with his hand, which the technicians saw and recognized for reverence. Amarouk made a mental note, appended it to an internal memo and sent it along the right routes. There would be a proper Vadasian memorial for the dead Baajin. They were still to new a species to have created any proper culture yet. Appended was another set of instructions for the remaining INTDIV NAVMAR agents to continue on, and if necessary, retreat. Amarouk had liked Stent as an agent. She had been extremely competent, and although she lacked a bit in the personality area, she had caught the Fleet Commander's eye for her abilities and efficiency. The Vadasian hoped there wouldn't be any more needless bloodshed, but at the same time knew it was more than likely to happen. In a way, he suddenly felt sorry for the soulless creatures that the Baajin were, and what they had been tasked to do. --- It was the usual upheaval. Politics. All ruthless politics. Just business as usual. It was surprising that anything in the country ever got done, let alone the people who did live there continued to do so. Economic turmoil cost people jobs, but also led to opportunities. And while the government continued to play its games (if it could even be called a proper governing body), external forces continued to strip Volutia of its resources. Invading forces of labor that came, brutalized the land, took what they wanted, and fled. The in-fighting meant that nobody ever really paid much attention to the fact that the massive "country" that was Volutia was a loosely knit group of malcontents each looking to rip each others throats out. It made for a people who would gladly roll over and let outsiders have what they wanted -- as long as the price was right. Olek sauntered through what could be the remains of the Volutian capital. A massive, molested wreak of a city spewing black smoke and cringing inward like a broken thing. Once proud buildings sagged inward under the strain and weight of their own lack of structural integrity. Hunched, weakened buildings looking like the people cluttered in the streets like trash, skulking in the shadow of the mountains afraid of the light. The Gothic architecture was mangled and smeared with so many substances that a forensics test would be needed to identify them all. Gargoyles that were horrifically disturbed in their visages stood at odd angles, some missing pieces as repair was overlooked in favor of embezzlement. It wasn't his kind of place, but it was the place to strip-mine. He was here mostly as a relations officer for the fictitious company that was stripping the planet of all their resources directly under the noses of the people who lived on it. Soon they would find themselves living in a dust bowl with no means of getting away. A place so drained as to collapse into itself. The starvation rates would grow exponentially once the task was complete in the next three months or so. Olek didn't care. These people were outside his universe, they didn't belong to the Joint Alliance. He felt no shame for the empty and desolate. He approached a building, tall, ornate if not a little on the ostentatious side. It was the only place that seemed hallowed ground, and the only building on the street that wasn't in ill-repair. Up the steps two at a time, he moved in through the gilded glass doors into a reception hall with vaulted ceilings. Footfalls clicked against marble floors that were a combination orange, cream and a red-pink color. He approached with certainty the circular desk situated in the center of the expanse overshadowed by overlarge and overbearing men in black suits. A woman offered up a basilica of pleasant resentment -- a smile -- before asking him his purpose. Olek offered up his own disdained smile before saying Null Calvert. Her eyes widened a moment, surprised, the smile wavering like a mirage in the desert. The hallucination reasserted itself while she thumbed through a massive tome of a book before arriving with the information that, yes, Olek was expected, and that yes, he wasn't to be brushed aside, else bad things might happen. The receptionist motioned with her hand at one of the guards and he lowered himself so she could speak into his ear. Olek, whose hearing was far more exceptional than these people probably thought, heard everything. "Take him to Director Calvert. Do not let him out of your sight until he has met with the Director. Understood?" The giant man nodded before coming around the counter to escort Olek toward the only elevator on the floor. The doors slid open and the two men slid inside. The doors closed. There were a number of buttons, but the large suited monkey pushed a sole button. Olek didn't complain, keeping his back to the big man. Show him that the Vadasian wasn't afraid. Eventually, after an agonizing number of silent moments spent under the atrocious siege of invasive music piped in from invisible speakers within the former prison, Olek and his unwanted companion made their escape. The number said it was the two-hundred-forty-third floor. A hard right and they began to walk. Olek counted out a few hundred meters before they arrived at a set of doors that were ajar. Inside was an older man, slim, tall and extremely stern. A white shock of hair cut short and crystal blue eyes set deeply in an unforgiving, frowning face. Those eyes directed themselves at the grunt behind Olek. "You can leave." The guard excused himself, closing the doors behind. Calvert turned his attention on Olek. "So good of you to come, Julian," Calvert said. His tone suggested the opposite. "Yes, Director. I was just, oh, concerned," Olek said, looking about Calvert's office. A massive arched window looked toward the South with bookcases against the wall, red carpet running the length of the room from the door to the desk and its five chairs with statues of ancient and terrifying looking creatures standing freely about the room. "About what, Julian?" "Just rumors. Gossip, really. Something about the Rii Confederacy. I heard they're offering to accept Volutia into the fold, become another cog in the massive bureaucratic machine. I found it amazing that they'd be so interested in such a backwater and out of the way planet." "And what does this have to do with me?" "Oh, come now. You can't have that short a memory, especially when it concerns our deal." "I remember." "So what are you doing about it, Null? Or will I have to find someone else?" Calvert sighed a moment. "The people are restless. Half of them want an end to the war in the streets with the gangs and the warlords. You have seen the state of this world and its people, haven't you? They want it to end. But the other half, they fear outsiders. They believe the Confederacy will only bring a return to the ancient war." "Which means?" "Which means that the negotiations for joining the Confederacy are a tad tricky at the moment, Julian. They want full discloser of everything on Volutia. They want to do an audit, Julian, learn who is crooked and who isn't." He laughed. "They fear our ties to certain parties, parties much like yourself." "The Confederacy must be kept off Volutia, Null. I don't care about tricky. You'll do it." Calvert nodded. "You forget, Julian, that were the Confederacy to gain access to and jurisdiction of Volutia, my own personal days as Director would be numbered in the negatives." "Then make sure they stay off planet, Null." Olek walked toward the doors and exited. There was no need to negotiate with Calvert. He'd do what was necessary, or he'd die along with everyone else on this planet. --- Null Calvert was shaking when Julian left the room. Visibly so. The impudence of that man drove Calvert to the very edge of his sanity. Of course the Rii Confederacy must be kept at bay! The judicial courts would have a heyday with his financial records were they to get their paws on that, nevermind the other corrupt bureaucrats. They'd all be tossed into the fire to burn, publicly no less; locked away on penal colonies with the other scum of the universe. And the crooks? The Rii Confederacy would have difficulty locking everyone away on this planet. It already was a penal colony in its own right. The Confederacy would just be shipping everyone away from one prison to another; but they'd do it, oh how they would. And all in the name of good, in the name of progress, of banishing the evil from the world. Julian wanted one of the old cities off to the South, Voldengrad. He'd talked about moving the people out and taking the city. Peaceably. Null would have said no, but the money. So much. And surprisingly, Julian had moved the people out peaceably, then locked down the entire region. It was the old capital. What the man wanted was unknown, but he wanted it. Null normally wouldn't care, except Julian was constantly paying him visits to make sure the Confederacy didn't show up to crash the party. That's how he'd said it, too, initially. Null began to wonder what it was that Julian wanted in the area, because it hadn't been more than a month or two later that the Rii Confederacy came knocking, talking about peaceful negotiations that would bring the people of Volutia into the fold, to increase their level of life to the standard of all persons in the Confederacy. It seemed so much like the Confederacy was following Julian, or wanted him. Who knew, maybe the Confederacy was moving against Julian in the background and was merely making small-talk as a pretense. Calvert didn't believe it, but it was enticing to many people. If it weren't for the fact that the Confederacy wanted so much information about the goings-on of Volutia, they might have already entered. But anyone with an inkling of power knew, and understood as Calvert did, the implications of the Confederacy stepping foot on the planet. Mass trials. The judicial system wouldn't even pretend to be fair. Open and shut cases, summary trials that were more farce then actual trials with the ability to defend against the onslaught. He wouldn't stand for that, not in the slightest. Sighing, he walked toward a mirror. Smoothing back his frazzled white hair, he readied himself to meet one of the Rii Confederacy dignitaries with their military attache. This would be interesting. He went to his desk, depressed a button and said as smoothly as he could, "Show them in." --- 'I remember,' he wrote, 'the few odd times Valorian and I were together. Hazy memories, memories that happened, but not quite. Like watching a play in Huzgibar. The actors are real, the act is fiction.' There was a pause, then the scribbled notes continued. 'He spoke grandly. Not simply, as I might have expected him to. No, he spoke like a man possessed of a million lives and a million experiences to tell. He didn't do quaint. Nor did I. Probably why we spoke to one another. He kept speaking about an object, but my memory, even with neural-subconscious aid, cannot dredge the depths for what it was. But it was important. I know if I were to hear of it, it'd all come back. That's a pretty big if. But I'm willing to make a bet on it.' 'I don't much care for if's, either. They're worrisome. They wear at the soul, the mind; the antithesis to morale. Anti-everything. But, I do know, that with time, I will remember. The memories will come, first a trickle, like the beginnings of a mighty river before I am drowned in the onslaught of my own fickle remembrance. I will know, and at the moment they return, I will fear. Because knowledge brings more than power -- it brings fear for who else may know, and how they may use their own knowledge.' 'I fear greatly.' --- Kajil checked herself in the mirror. She appeared as a tall brunette with dark brown eyes. Clad in the pompous dress the locals of 'her' status wore, she ventured out. Well aware of the security nodes, she had unleashed an ASAI, an almost-sentient-artificial-intelligence (since actually sentient intelligences of the digital were banned for multiple reasons) that would follow her through the digital world and disrupt those scanners. The code was multiplying as well, embedding itself deeply into each node hub. It would require a complete removal of the physical system to get rid of it. As long as there was something there, the code would self-replicate. The perfect virus. It wasn't that what Kajil was doing would be too open to scrutiny. With the disruption to the security nodes, a disruption not likely to be noticed, she'd be able to move about freely. She descended the elevator at a cool clip, the numbers for the floors flickering like a spastic in the thralls of a seizure. It reached zero with a ping and she stepped out. A massive lobby complete with a few guards. She waved at a few that she knew liked her, blowing a kiss or two and giggling -- all for show -- before slipped through the glassed-arch doors. Outside, she smiled at the doorhop before taking the steps down to the sidewalk where another man in uniform stood, holding the door to a cab open. "The Bellingham, please," she called in a clear voice. The automated system picked it up and pulled off into the traffic, moving at an easy clip. While it wove its way through traffic, Kajil pulled out a hand mirror and checked herself over. Might as well make herself look more like a woman. After what seemed a horrifically long time, the taxi slowed to a halt. It demanded credits before she could leave, which she deposited appropriately. Stepping out onto a grand, tree-lined boulevard, she looked up. And up, and up. The Bellingham was what one would consider an exclusive club. Almost a high-end club, it was just low enough that every day police officers were likely to be found in it during their off hours. Inside it was all dazzling lights done up in soft tones flashing back and forth. Brightly lit, it seemed like an exclusive club. She wandered her way through the tables like a medieval labyrinth, each island its own oasis with drinks and people leaning in close. Colorful concoctions, both the drinks and the garments, fluttered about the room like birds in a tropical paradise. The mawkish dialogue sputtered like a broken sink valve splurged everywhere intermingled with perverse, girlish giggling. The dance floor was alive with the thrashings of the rich, the famous, the bored, and the purveyors of easy women. Kajil avoided it. What she was looking for was a special kind of man. She recognized a number of officers here and there, done up in their uniforms still, having come from work to throw away money at drinks bought for women in the hopes of scoring. She was looking for a special kind of someone. An officer with enough rank to know what might be going on, and drunk enough not to have the presence of mind not to stop his own slathering tongue. It was an eventuality that she would find him. A man by any other name, celebrating like any other man. Oh, how most everyone was celebrating. The news had broke the story that the individual that had instigated the murders had been caught by the military arm and killed in action. The massive explosion was detailed as action against the villain. The end result was a panel of personal talking about how the fight had gone and that in the end they had needed to result to powerful weapons to subdue the terrorist. That was what they were labeling it, now. Not just some random murderer, but a terrorist. But Kajil knew better. Even more, she knew that the man she stalked toward knew better too. Moving into the seat next to him, she turned and smiled demurely, batting fake lashes with practiced movements. He was already inebriated, heavily so. He smiled back, sloppy, gushy. His badge identified him as an officer. Kajil's intel informed her that he had been the second in command on the investigation at the Naruda Argul. He would have answers, and all she needed was to entice them out of him. He bought her a drink. She made small talk. Oh, how he personally had solved the case, and how he had informed the military arm himself. So boastful, so easy. She made the appropriate noises when he talked of his accomplishments that had led to the death of the terrorist in a parking lot out in the Darvaigh District outside a run-down apartment complex. Slowly, though, she managed to wheedle more information out of him. A man -- a creature. His boss, Donavan, had called him Greyfield. A man with pull. Unsure of his origins or whereabouts. She watched his eyes, the way they flicked a certain way -- fear, distrust, apprehension -- when he spoke of this Greyfield. Was he the key to them having found Stent? Or was there a bigger picture and Stent had merely stumbled into the limelight only to be caught in the resulting act and attempt to fumble her way through a play where she didn't know her lines? No, Kajil thought, there was more to this. This man, this Greyfield, he sounded dangerous. And the fact that she was told that he had personally witnessed the only man who could have possibly been a witness to Stent's incursion into the Naruda Argul commit suicide, that implied something. Didn't it? More questions than answers. It didn't help that there was now a military ship somewhere out there watching Argul. He continued to talk, though. Kajil listened. They weren't sure how Stent had infiltrated. They still wanted answers themselves. And what was more important, what information had the terrorist gotten away with? Had the terrorist transmitted it? Oh, he said he'd solve it, eventually. But it wasn't as pertinent now that the terrorist was dead. Kajil offered to buy the man his next drink, a small favor. The drink was brought over, she paid the bartender, and deftly dropped in a small, minuscule pellet. It would destroy all memories implanted within his head for the past two hours plus stop the formation of any short-term memories. He'd think it was the booze. It was a precaution. Excusing herself as if going toward the washroom, she made for the exit. Hailing a cab, she made to for her apartment. There was still a lot to accomplish. --- Morning broke like a splattered zit on the face of a planet ruined in the mire of political corruption. Proud spires jolted up from the planet surface, wrangled about the engineering feat of internal superstructure resplendent in form and function. From orbit, a giant circular dome peppered with more towers urged upward by sheer will and engineering design. The dome, in truth, was the main spaceport for all of Argul, a honeycombed structure of internal bays and massive jointed, folding apertures combined with suspension fields for the larger cargo and cruise vessels. Naruda Argul. Kajil watched it and the sky-skimmers that circled with warning hazards flashing and warning away pedestrian traffic. The police were still there in full force, and with the arrival of the Rii Confederacy, their own brand of military justice machines flirted in and about the much slower police ones. She understood that it would be suicide to even attempt a re-infiltration of the building in its current state, and with the planet currently in lockdown there was no leaving either. There was however a small glimmer of hope for her investigation of what had happened: Greyfield. It was an interesting enough name. A simple scan of public directories yielded nothing, and using remote programs infiltrated into public terminals, the only thing she turned up were men in blue suits with dark glasses. They came by and ransacked every terminal looking for the culprit. She sat in an open bar on the roof of a tall building looking across with enhanced vision to watch as the police force swept in and began a forensics investigation. A small smile faded behind a tall glass of something fruity and fizzy. At best they'd find the remnants of the program and the fragmented pieces of code that had once been its whole. Putting it together wouldn't yield an origin, only a massive question, but Kajil couldn't be careless. One officer began to gesture manically. He was jamming fingers at neighboring buildings. She'd worn out her welcome, and with that, gathered her purse and ambled toward the exit. Paying, she smiled welcoming at the man before hitting the elevator with two other couples. She began to flirt with one of the men whose girl began to scowl. The buzzer pinged, the doors opened, police rushed in. IDs were taken, but she appeared part of the group. They were allowed to leave as the police shambled into the elevator and ascended. She caught a cab with them, much to the other two girls chagrin. It was definitely a method of evading. --- Harsh breath, back and forth as lungs fought for oxygen. It shouldn't happen, some logical portion of the mind still intact reasoned. My blood is so full of machines that the feeling that I'm short of breath shouldn't be there. But the primal, the animal in him was panting, body screaming in pain as he rushed up the slope. The crest and red triangles flicked over moving objects. He was already pulling on a mental trigger, left arm coming up and moving of its own accord. Combat programs guided him like a machine designed to let him think when it was necessary. A blast of coherent energy jumped the distance in the fraction of time it took to blink. Indicators began falling, red triangles flickering away to yellow exclamation points. Other triangles refused to leave with return blasts bustling in expansiveness like an angry wasp cloud. Stinging bits flung everywhere. He felt himself shaken. Both physically and mentally as something to a side of him exploded. Diving, he began scouring for snipers. Ranged sensors pinged the area, looking for blotches more dense than others. Disturbed air, disturbed harmonics. There, five kilometers distant in a high tower. The chatter on his COMM was alive, and then: "Jameson! The fucker got Jameson!" Fire was concentrated on the area where sensors reported the sniper being, only something else happened. "Incoming," was one of the two warnings, the first being a klaxon in his ear. It took that moment, that fixated second of actualized thought to percolate into realization as to what the warning was. Incoming enemy mortar fire. There was no sound, just the ping of disrupted air, the vibrant discord of a warbling quantum string. The explosive force, however, whipped out several indicators on his map. Five down. Shield overloads combined with a disruptive flechette field. The rounds penetrated the armor maybe a pico-meter, enough to upload the virus that would overload the system. Instant kill. Information began to infiltrate the minds of the soldiers moving along the battlefield as Overwatch provided coordinates for the mortar position. Eight kilometers off, East-Northeast, relative. Already assignments were being randomized and parties were gushing over the ground to take flight on anti-grav thrusters at speeds that would put them into position within seconds. The sniper struck again as the first mortars had fallen, taking out Kregov as he flickered into the air amid a burst of his anti-grave field. The tower exploded, a thin cloud trailing away from it. Missile strike. More red triangles began to wink out. He jumped into the air, anti-grav coils catching and thrusting him a half kilometer forward where he landed. A yellow point next to him turned red. Fake death, buying time. Whatever it was, he acted with visceral precision. The enemies bioarmor split in half as coherent energy washed up and out his hand to eviscerate the opponent in question. Warnings were screaming again. Enemy lock. Overwatch was pinpointing and assigning vectors. Friendly mortar fire. He fed all power to shields as the enemy attack washed overhim. The HUD flickered red. Icons showed power fluctuations. He'd nearly been killed. And just as quickly as that attack had happened, Overwatch suddenly had the enemy positions locked down. Positions known, numbers known. It went from being an offensive action to merely a police-mop-up action as accurate trans-dimensional lasers from Overwatch fired through the quantum strata to disable or kill the various enemies. Overwatch, a semi-cognizant entity fused with a Vadasian mind and dumped into a quantum strata invisible to the eye. Any motion, any action, it becomes aware of it and the possible outcome those actions have. It has influence over all troops and disseminates its findings down to the lower levels, increasing the chances of survival. The system was a bit of a joke, though. Like all living beings, it could be distracted, and although it provided invaluable information when it worked, when it screwed up, the troops found out the hard way. But today, today was a good day for Overwatch. A good day for everyone. When the dust cleared, the troops began to pull out. Overwatch oversaw the transition as the troops fled through the dimensional gateway. Eventually, Overwatch too, warped out, leaving a newly killed system to languish in the throes of its distress beacons. --- "She's here, Sir," the aide said. "Send her in." A tall, lithe creature walked stolidly into the office. She had the trademark scaled skin of the Baajin, her multitudinous scales flickering to varying shades between orange, red and yellow. She was distressed, that much Amarouk could tell. She ducked her head in a casual salute despite the flickers of multicolored scales. "Sir," she began. "And what can I do for you, Special Operative Deak'tar?" "About the Killjar Operation: I have the data, sir." "You've handed it off, I presume?" "Yes, Sir. Your technicians said they should have the information sifted in approximately a week." Amarouk nodded and dismissed her, telling her to report to mission control. Valorian, what were you up to? --- Stent walked out of Fleet Commander Visarett's office and down the hall. That had gone better than she'd expected. The FC had been briefed about how she'd broken cover to escape and faked her own death. Using a system overload as cover, she'd created a dimensional gateway inside her suit that shunted her across the planes of existential universes into her own, destroying the suit she had been wearing it, scrambling to machine down to the lowest quark level. She was certain the explosion would have been massive. Entering operations, she looked around. A ping on her internal netcom informed her that her mission had been updated. She'd be going back to run interference, and soon. Her compatriots needed extraction, most likely. She would facilitate that with minimal casualties if at all possible. And another lost of ECHO would not be allowed. The Baajin moved out of ops toward the gateroom.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
The hobbled form flirts into the room like smoke. It penetrates, like a fog, encompassing all. The room is filled with his being, corporeal or incorporeal -- it's hard to tell. Then, colliding like an implosion, a darkness erupts from beneath the doorjam. Blown back on hinges, it saunters in with a kneejerk spasm. Glazed over crystal orbs of indeterminate depth glance about the room. Dead, deep pools -- only they hold no meaning in this undead form. A vast deepness, like the unknown chasm in the earth. Serving no purpose, and like a hole in the ground, provide no light. It lacks a soul, or perhaps, it is a soul? Its jaw works back and forth, unhinged, handing from strips of flesh and a gurgling flush from the system. A disquiet, unease, it filters through the ambiance of the room. Floorboards creak with each shuffled step. Casting about, inflexible hands crack as joints long since neglected fracture back into motions once taken for granted. Searching, scrabbling, it falls to knees long since worn by the abuse. Tears slithered down cheeks turned to mired dust. Sluicing between the craters that mark his face, arms extend upward in a room where no light exists. A form of ventriloquism occurs as he cries out with a voice no longer his own. The speaker, unknown even as the creature weeping screams, cries out. "Please," it says, a broken record repeated idly with scratched, hypnotic vibrations. The floor oscillates, then; a bridge caught in a crosswind before it caves inward. It falls, thrown into the abyss as it is cut by splintered, wooded flooring and its own internal agony. Throat constricting, it vomits as it falls and the vertigo rises. And just as quickly, the glade reaches up grassy knolls and freshwater streams to catch the incumbent denizen bound by gravity to fall from heaven. The body crunches against the ground with satisfying freshness, like celery hit by a stick. The crumbled shape of the creature dissipates, condensing into rain before oozing into the ground. Toxic, the grass about it begins to die, plagued by the disease of the creatures self-realized pain. A tree shatters as it explodes from within. The creature, a living timebomb turned to reality, steps forth with renewed purpose, if not demoralized by its fate. The shambles of its life is reflected by the shambles of its person as thorns rise from the ground to imprint themselves on the creature. Twisting about its body in macabre artwork, they spiral into a form of tattoos before stitching the hanging jawbone back into its face. With new vigor, it looks about. Down at hands marred with dirt and feet suspended at the length of what was once the burned out husks of legs. Flesh wounds repaired, it looks at the disjointed world about it. A red-orange-pink sky casts a stack contrast at the floating entities that circle about the creature. Ruined buildings and wild bushes populate all. Crumbling stone walls that bleed black blood and cry in the howl of a relentless wind eat at his soul. Nearly consumed, it searches for the comfort of shelter. Vagrant rebukes pound into the indomitable wind, spoken with force and understanding of identity. Repulsed and offended by the voice carried over by the harried creature, the wind retreats to another island to scream obscenities at the form huddled beneath the overhang of a maladjusted branch beset by the creatures own nefarious toxic force.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
So, I forgot to do something. I forgot to talk about the events directly after my move. My parents helped me, they hauled one trailer, I the other. It was quick, and by the second of June my folks had left. Well, the power went out for us that night...and no one else. There was a limiter placed on the power because the previous tenants had failed to pay their utilities bill. We were paying for that... But that got fixed the next morning. For the first couple weeks, out of myself and my two roomies, I was the only one with a job, so inherently, I got to pay for everything. That's balanced out now (kinda). Then there was the fact that I didn't get a landline (phone) until the 17th of June and didn't get internet until the 25th of June. I had signed up for both on the 2nd of June. That's...way to long to wait for either. Never mind me attempting to get my license changed over (and needing a bill for that, which I had to wait until near the end of the month to get) or that I get to play taxi as I'm the only person with a vehicle and a license to drive it. Still waiting on my two roommates to get bus passes. At least one of them has a bike. And my job? I get to deliver stuff to people who are, quick seriously, crazy. Or just straight up odd. Very, very odd. But, it'll be fun.